PubliCola just had spokespeople from both sides of Initiative 1100, one of two liquor-privatization initiatives, in to our office for and ed board debate. (I-1100 is the Costco-backed initiative that would privatize liquor sales, eliminate the separation between distributor and retailer, and allow volume discounts for distributors and retailers. As opposed to the other booze initiative, it would leave the tax in place.)
I'm not sure we know how we're going on this one yet, but the warring sides definitely gave us a preview of what to expect PubliCola's I-11oo debate, happening this Sunday, October 10 at 7:30 PM, downstairs at Town Hall.
Short version? It was a brawl. We need a drink.
Some quotes from today:
The pro-1100 side, on why it's time for liquor reform: "It's been 75 years since Prohibition. It's time to modernize our alcohol system. ... Having state employees sell liquor is ridiculous---it's from the 1930s, a time when they were trying to make alcohol as difficult as possible to get."
The anti-1100 side, on the potential revenue impacts of the initiative: "Whatever think about privatization in theory, we have two specific measures on the ballot this year. Both of them are deeply flawed and are going to create a set of unintended problems that we're going to have to deal with. ... both initiatives have significant negative revenue impacts at a time when the state has already made two years of deep cuts."
The pro-1100 side, [Pete Hanning, the owner of the Red Door in Fremont, specifically] on how I-1000 improves the liquor-buying experience for consumers and restaurant owners: "The only product I don't get delivered [to my restaurant] is liquor. I go in and pick it up myself. There's no impetus for them to give me good, quality service. ... If you're going to have a party at your house, you have to go a bunch of different places to get the beer, the ice, the liquor. [I-1000] improves efficiency for the consumer."
The anti-1100 side, on the availability of hard alcohol to minors: "State liquor stores have a 94 percent compliance rate. Private outlets' compliance rate is only 75 percent. One time out of four, a kid walks out with a bottle. [The state's] 94 percent rate is one of the best in the country, in terms of keeping hard liquor out of the hands of minors."
The pro-1100 side on the compliance question: "The public safety argument is a load of bunk. It's really just trying to spread fear. They don't have any numbers to back it up. Thirty-two states all around the cournty have privatized their liquor sales, and if you look at those states, on average, they're doing the same and in many cases better. ... There's no crime sprees."
The anti-1100 side, on the public-health impacts of widely available booze: "In Washington State, people do consume a little bit more alcohol than they do in California, but they consume it more responsibly. ... California [where liquor is privatized] actually has a significantly higher rate of binge and heavy drinking. If we had California levels of [binge and heavy drinking], that would translate to about 40,000 more problem drinkers in Washington State."
The pro-1100 side, on how cities and the state can prevent concentration of liquor stores in poor neighborhoods: "There are alcohol enforcement areas in all of Pioneer Square and the ID and parts of the Central District. I would put it on the city to work harder to have a healthy discourse with the Washington State Liquor Control Board. For years, they have not played nice with each other. ... [Additionally], the liquor control board is going to have the sole mission of enforcement. It's only going to get better under 1100."
The anti-1100 side, in response: "This initiative would lead to an explosion of outlets selling hard liquor. Currently, there are about 300. The state auditor estimates there could be as many as 3,357 off-premise stores selling hard liquor. The concern on our end is that if you're going to increase the number of outlets selling liquor, there are going to be higher enforcement costs associated with that."
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